Planet Cap Blog

A powerful process of self-discovery

Catégorie : CHRONICLES

To Each Their Thoughts

I don’t know about you, but I can remember the exact moment when I realized I was a whole, separate person, distinct from the outside world.

I was between 4 and 6 years old. I was playing and the adults were having an animated conversation nearby. I don’t know what mysterious forces were at work, but in a split second, I suddenly realized that the words and images in my head really existed and they were my own.

Before this moment, they had been there without my being fully aware of them. Now, suddenly, they were coming to life and were separating me from other beings and things. For the first time, there was an inside and an outside. I was perceiving another world – filled with thoughts and disparate images – a strange and fascinating world. In spite of myself, I felt attracted – like Alice in Wonderland – to this new and unknown world. I had no points of reference and I was playing it by ear, but I wasn’t worried.

I began the journey into this new world without fear. I felt as though I were being guided down a path to find myself. Others suddenly become strangers to me – I had to find them as well, but in a different manner. The road would be long, but that particular instant registered in my mind as a moment of peace and clarity – a calm lucidity and wisdom I would rarely experience afterwards.

Then I came back down to Earth. This sudden plunge into the metaphysical world was quite intense for my little childish brain to take in! Nevertheless, guided by my experimental soul, I continued to explore my sudden perception. I went up to each individual and asked them what they were thinking, right at that very moment. All their thoughts were different. I now had proof of my theory!

With a flower in hand, I experimented to find out what others were seeing. This brought a new surprise – no description was alike. « Your flower is pretty, it has a large stem and large leaves, » « I like the orange petals of your beautiful flower, » « Oh, that looks funny, there’s brown in your flower. It looks like it ate chocolate « …

Now my thoughts went into high gear. So, where do our thoughts and perceptions come from? And if each person is a world unto himself – and there are many people on Earth – what is the great reservoir that feeds all this?

I wondered if it came from the sky and I looked up at the clouds. I told myself that maybe they were holding our thoughts. But I quickly reached the conclusion that my theory did not hold water because sometime there are no clouds in the sky and there are certainly not enough of them for every human on the planet!

It was too much for my mind to absorb in one day! I was exhausted and I knew I could not find the answers to all my questions.

To calm down, as I usually did, I went in to listen to my nursery rhymes on my record player. I loved listening to my records, especially the one that came with a kind of multi-faceted cylinder covered with mirrors which I would place above the record.  As the record turned, it would reflect and animate the cartoon animal images on the disc. Since it was associated with nursery rhymes, this repetitive movement had the power to calm me down and comfort me – it focused my mind. There were no surprises, I knew exactly what image would appear and at what time.  There was no need to think, just to observe.

But this would only work for a short time.

I was already wary of things that go round and round. So, when I finally felt at peace, I closed my eyes. But the images in my head continued to rotate and repeat until they formed a spiral. The little animals no longer went around in circles, they rose in an upward spiral in a movement that would never end.

I fell asleep, enchanted. I prefer things that do not go around in circles. The security of so many discoveries made me want to grow, find the strength to live and the drive to learn. I think this experience was the starting point of my need to look within myself without fear and to understand others so that I could better respect them.

Every time I meet someone new, I have this reflex of feeling the spark of intuition that launched their being and determines their destiny. Some individuals are so far removed from the spark that they feel lost and miserable. Others strongly deny its existence and are desperate to escape their memories. Still others have let it slip away, but are passionately and patiently seeking to recover what they had lost along the way. All this often weaves a complicated and distorted, sometimes exciting, series of meetings.

I am fortunate in my work to experience these moments of great authenticity – moments that transcend and embellish everything.

And then there are the beautiful and rare encounters with those who remember and know how to make the magically attuned strings of their instruments – their lives – vibrate. I am happy and thankful to have met such people along the way. They have helped me, and help me still, to maintain my original spark of life without feeling lost as I move forward on a road riddled with obstacles.

A Story Without Words

While preparing my video on symbols and their ability to link things together, a curious episode from my past came to mind – a strange encounter which I wondered about for many years.

I was a student at the time. There was a strike that day, a major strike with mass demonstrations. I had never cared for the climate of confrontation of these demonstrations. As I watched the students facing the riot control forces, I saw one of the guards lift his helmet and wipe his face. He was very young – as young as the students.

Feeling uncomfortable and very disturbed by all the violence surrounding me, I reflected on the absurdity of this conflict. I felt as though the air had been permeated by a mood of arrogation. The atmosphere was explosive – all the darker instincts seeming to emerge as suddenly as a jack-in-box.

Clinging to my schoolbag, (I must say that my schoolbag was the equivalent of the cell phone today, but much heavier. My whole life was in that schoolbag – I think if I could, I would have slept with it!) I walked the streets vigilantly, trying to hear what was going on. I was quite puzzled and wondering about my own choices, my values, and the direction I wanted to go in my life. This world was not my world but… where was my world?

As I was immersed in my thoughts, in the middle of a street I was crossing I met a man carrying a camera and big reporter’s bag on his shoulders. He had to be a journalist covering the event. In his early forties, he looked like one of the extreme left friends that my father used to hang out with in May of ’68. We crossed paths and, as I was passing him, I turned to look at him and – without knowing why – I stopped, dropped my schoolbag and just stared at him, open-mouthed. Somewhat taken aback, the man went on his way. I picked up my briefcase and forgot the event.

A few weeks later, another strike, and the same scene was repeated. In another street I was crossing, at the middle of the crosswalk, I met the same man again. My schoolbag fell from my hands, I stopped and gawked at him – speechless. Obviously he remembered the first scene, but then we went our way without speaking.

For the next three years, every three or four months, and always in the same way – with both of us heading in opposite directions – I would meet this man. I finally managed not to drop my briefcase and gawk every time we would meet! We would just pass each other, glancing furtively at one another, curious but distant, never saying a word or even cracking a smile. Two strangers, crossing paths, without knowing why.

Some of these meetings were quite unusual. One day I was in the South of France and was heading home by train. The train was crowded and I rushed to find a seat for fear of having to make the trip standing. A man was coming the other way, obviously as concerned as I was to find a seat. It was a matter of survival, I had to find a place before he did! All my attention was focused on getting a seat. I had to have it at all costs!

Miraculously, I opened the door of a compartment and there were two places! I sat down and a man sat opposite me. It was him! We were face-to-face in a confined space for several hours. All the other passengers were chatting, discussing the weather. I cannot remember why, but again there was a collective unease. He and I simply sat, glancing at each other from time to time without any warmth. And, despite the strangeness and the enigmatic character of this new encounter that could have sparked a conversation, we were silent, serious and imperturbable, suspended in another time and space. It is as if we were characters in a story who had received some imperial command to never speak to one another. It was a wordless story that made sense in this silence and the mysterious space to which we both belonged – which seemed to methodically arrange these meetings for some goal that we would each understand separately.

We got off the train and headed in opposite directions; he to the left and I to the right.

I ended up leaving my college town and moved to another city with a clearer idea of my destiny. The first day I arrived in this new city, I decided to walk around to get my bearings. After an hour of wandering around discovering my new space, I grew tired and suddenly began worrying about my future. I felt attracted to a small street into which I turned. There, it looked like a car had broken down and three men were bustling around trying to fix it. The first two greeted me with a nod and smiled at me. As for the third, he finally lifted his head from the hood of the car to look at me. Him again!

Here I was in a completely different city, in an area that was off the beaten track, once again asking myself all these existential questions… and here he pops up again out of nowhere! Standing there, I was really amazed and challenged and also visibly surprised – just as I had been all the other times. We gazed at each other – without a word or even a smile.  It was a deep look, an authentic one reflecting at the same time the mysterious secret that connected us and the acceptance of this mystery. And visibly determined, both of us, not to break the almost sacred nature of this meeting.

I continued on my way and behind me I heard his friends ask him about what just happened – without any response on his part. And I smiled, deeply grateful that he had accepted the injunction of silence that seemed to bind us. I could not hear his voice – and for nothing in the world would I have wanted to – as if breaking the supernatural character of  these scheduled appointments would be a sacrilege.

The last meeting took place a few months later. We were both walking in a plaza, according to the same protocol, he going one way and I in the other. For the first time, we were far enough apart, each at one end of this large plaza, but clearly we recognized each other at the same time. When we crossed paths, still some distance apart, we stopped for a few seconds, exchanged one last look… a goodbye. I knew immediately that this would be our last meeting. And so it was.

I did not turn back and I’m sure he didn’t either. And I felt lighter, freer, I was on the right path and all possibilities seemed open to me.

That night I had a dream – one of those rare but recurring dreams that have always marked a positive change in my life. And in the following months, my life did indeed take a different course, as if I had been able to make a choice – a choice that was a milestone in my journey towards adulthood.

What inner progression allowed this progress?

I cannot speak for him, but in my case, I was able to connect some episodes of my life story. Thanks to this man, I came to understand the conflict going on within me, causing me move in two different directions. He was sent my way to point out my ambivalences and my hesitations – the source of my suffering – hence the fact that we always passed each other going in opposite directions. These chance encounters would continue until I had reached maturity and an unconscious decision took place within me, allowing me to clearly see my choices in life. Hence a final meeting, simple and liberating …

Why him? I have some ideas, but the most important element was the evolution of our meetings. Externally, our differences were visible and reflected two opposing realities: we were not of the same world. We could easily have been enemies. But, gradually, something else formed in stead, mystery and astonishment replaced  judgment and prejudice. And I truly believe that we both learned a tolerance – the acceptance of two opposing destinies linked in a meeting of two souls – which has changed and liberated us.

The Gift

In this blog, I will revisit some key episodes in my life and explain how I decoded them, either at the moment they occurred or over time. Positive or negative, these events have turned out to be gifts that helped define my career.

Indeed, the vivid memories of our existence are not there by accident. Each one carries a life lesson that can support us in our growth process. Whether positive or painful, these memories become the foundation of who we are. And their symbolic decoding gives them an almost sacred meaning.

When you manage to make sense of an experience – either on your own or through a book, a work of art, or with the help of a friend or therapist – the painful imprint fades and gives way to a sense of liberation and expansion.

« Guess the riddle or I devour you », said the Sphinx.

Ever since I can remember, I have always preferred to decode the enigma rather than be devoured by the trials and misconceptions of life.

When I reflect on my experiences, many things start running through my head because my life is rich with episodes which are both simple – yet very intense.

So, today I allowed one such experience to come to the surface naturally.

My childhood was difficult in many ways. Communicating with others has never been easy for me. I have always been very direct – never filtering any thoughts.

One thing I had an especially hard time with was accepting gifts. Nothing ever pleased me. And instead of thanking the giver, I would usually make comments about what was wrong with the gift or why it was a poor choice. Although this was done without malicious intent, I would typically reject any presents without mincing words and without noticing the suffering I caused.

That said, there were some presents that weren’t rejected because I could feel the benevolent intention of the person who had given it to me.

When I was about 13 or 14 years old, I was at a family gathering. A family member (an aunt, I think) just got back from a shopping trip and began to distribute gifts to everyone. There were six or seven family members present and everyone received and opened their small – or not so small – gift. It was a cheerful and very friendly mix of children and adults, all under the spell of this moment of sharing gifts and surprises.

The gifts were well chosen and included some very beautiful things. Wrapping paper was piled up on top of the table and laughter and jokes filled the room.

In these surroundings, I felt I was opening up to others. I – so often alone and on the defensive – dropped my guard. I was ready to dive in – heart and soul – into this carefree moment of happiness.

By now, everyone else had received their gift. Finally, my turn arrived and I was waiting -smiling and cheerful (which was not often the case) – to find out what my gift was.

My aunt turned to me and said, « Of course, there’s nothing for you. I know you don’t like presents.”

I can’t describe the humiliation, desolation and loneliness I felt at that moment. I was too proud to let them see me cry, but I can still feel the lump in my throat. To this day, I have no idea how I managed to hold back the tears.

What hurt the most – above and beyond the lack of a gift – was the scathing, dismissive and profoundly mean tone used to deliver the message. None of the other family members were paying any attention to me – each one busy in appreciation and exchange.

I took in this collective validation of my rejection and wondered how I could go on living…

Then I felt a small hand slip into mine. My little 7-year-old neighbor – who I often took care of – was also there that day. She had received a small toy.

She looked at me tenderly and said: « I will always love you » and handed me a piece of paper where she had hastily sketched a bright sun and a flower that said: « I love you my Chantou ». There was my gift!

So, I received two gifts that day. One went much deeper than the most beautiful object I could have received. That this little girl, at the tender age of 7, was able to pick up on my distress and all that was going on moved me deeply and put me back on track.

I was not perfect and, with my surly side, was not necessarily an object of love for others. But I knew that the children I loved so much would always be there along the way to give a sense of purpose to my life. I knew that by helping and loving them, I could also grow, change and understand myself better. And that’s what I did!

My aunt was right, all things considered. And, I certainly deserved this harsh lesson given to me without love. I needed to see how, throughout my life, I might also behave without loving and understanding others.

The imprint of this experience helped me question myself and correct my stubborn attitudes.

And for this valuable lesson, I’d like to thank this aunt!

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